For humoristGarrison Keillor,home is where the imagination is.

The audience leans forward to hear the tall man behind the microphone. The stage behind him is littered with the people and paraphernalia of radio production: a sound-effects man, an orchestra ready to play, several radio actors studying their scripts, technicians behind control boards studded with knobs and dancing needles. Garrison Keillor, the man with the mike, speaks softly, haltingly, making tangible a place that has never been—Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, the semifictional community built from the memories of Keillor’s real Minnesota home town.

The hundreds crowded into the Manhattan theater are not the only ones listening. Keillor is hosting the “American Radio Theater,” broadcast on public radio each Saturday to living rooms across America—some 1.5 million listeners. Keillor emcees a program of music (jazz, folk, gospel, bluegrass, opera, and country-and-western), wry “commercials” (Bertha’s Kitty Boutique, or Guy’s shoes [“Try them on—they’re no worse than any other shoes”]), satirical radio theater, and—loved most of all—a story about “doings” in Lake Wobegon.

Keillor, with horn-rimmed glasses and an almost boyish face, speaks softly in a halting, unprofessional style that reminds one more of family supper-table talk than mass entertainment. Keillor fans love it; the show appears to mock the slick, fail-safe kind of show business to which most Americans are accustomed.

When Keillor is not entertaining an audience, he is often found in an unpretentious set of offices located on Manhattan’s Lower West Side. Papers and posters are piled high; furniture is metal; and staff assistants wear jeans. Phones ring furiously, the caller usually asking if Keillor is available ...

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